Easily grown in average, medium to wet soil in full sun. Tolerates a wide range of soils including poor dry ones. Intolerant of shade.
Acer negundo, commonly known as box elder, is a suckering, fast-growing, weak-wooded, medium-sized, deciduous tree that typically grows 30-50’ (less frequently to 70’) tall with an irregular rounded crown. It is widely distributed throughout the U.S. except in Alaska and Hawaii. In Missouri, it typically occurs in moist to wet soils along streams, river flood plains and low woods (Steyermark). Although it is a maple and produces the familiar maple fruits (paired samaras), it differs from most maples by having odd-pinnate compound leaves (each with 3-5 toothed leaflets) and by being dioecious (separate male and female trees). Leaves with three leaflets are most common, and these resemble poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans). Leaves are light to medium green, turning an undistinguished yellow in fall. Greenish-yellow flowers appear in pendant clusters in spring on separate male and female trees. Flowers are not showy. Female flowers give way to fruits (samaras) which mature in fall and often persist on the tree well into winter. Fruiting can be abundant.
Genus name is the Latin name for a maple tree.
Specific epithet comes from the Sanskrit and Bengali word nirgundi, which was used as negundo in the naming of Vitex negundo and later for this maple that has a leaf similar to that of Vitex negundo.
The name box elder (sometimes boxelder) is in reference to a use of the wood for making crates and boxes and the supposed similarity of the leaves to those of elder (Sambucus). Leaves also resemble those of some ashes, hence the additional common name of ash-leaved maple.
This tree is a host for boxelder bugs, which do not harm the tree but can be a significant nuisance to homeowners if the tree is located near the home. Also susceptible to borers. Anthracnose, powdery mildew and canker are occasional disease problems. Weak-wooded branches may break in high winds or from the weight of ice/snow, sometimes severely damaging the shape of the tree.
Could be used as a shade tree. Generally recommended only for difficult corners of the landscape where other trees of superior ornamental value will not grow or in cold northern climates such as North Dakota where many deciduous shade trees are hard to grow. Male trees are generally considered to be superior landscape plants to female trees because they lack the messy flowers and somewhat unsightly seed clusters of the female trees.